As adults, sometimes it’s easy to forget what it was like to be a child. There’s so much fun to be had as a child- endless curiosity, learning new things every day, playing make believe- but it’s also a time for learning hard lessons like how to deal with emotions, and how to navigate friendships and rejections.
We can’t shelter our children from these things.
They’re a part of life, and they help us all to grow into better, more well-rounded people. It’s tough to see, though. That’s why it’s important that we create environments that encourage growth and make the difficulties of being a young person a little easier to deal with. This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and that’s why we want to share some of our tips on how to encourage personal growth in your children.
If we accept our children for who they are, they’ll have an easier time of accepting themselves too. As a parent, it can be easy to compare your children (and your parenting) to others. It’s important to not focus on the things you think your child should be doing based on others. We need to accept them for who they are continually, quirks and all. They develop and grow in their own way and at their own pace, but that’s normal. It’s also important to remember that as they grow, literally and figuratively, they change and that’s okay too. They may not be as excited to see you at the school gates as they were three years ago, but that’s just them growing and evolving into the person they’re becoming.
Children are naturally curious, and it’s one of their best qualities. That curiosity should be taken seriously, and their questions should be answered as that’s what helps them to learn about the world and grow both personally and emotionally. Sometimes it’s natural to feel resistance towards this, as we tend to hold onto things from when we were children. Some topics and conversations may have been off-limits then, but that doesn’t mean that they should be now.
Encouraging two-way, open-ended conversations nurtures trust and openness with our children. Over time, it means that they will become more comfortable being open about things that are important to them or troubling them. Of course, it’s important to tackle topics in an age-appropriate way, even if they’re uncomfortable ones. But by continually encouraging this, it means that in times of trouble our children will be more comfortable and likely to come to us for advice and a listening ear.
Without support, it’s hard for anyone to grow emotionally. It goes without saying that we should always support our children through tough times, but we should support them in all of the other ways too.
One of these ways is supporting their interests.
Through an adult lens, children’s interests can sometimes feel fickle as often they change quickly. This doesn’t make them any less important though. A huge part of growing up is discovering who you are. One of the ways we do this is through developing our interests, and interests are unique to every single one of us. Interests can change like the weather, but if we support our children through all of their wild and wacky ones, it helps them to learn that it’s okay for them to feel their way through their childhood and discover who they are and what they’re about. It’s okay if they’re an artist one week and a computer whizz the next. As they’re cycling through their interests they’re learning soft skills and gaining confidence, and confidence is key. If we don’t support them, we risk them losing the confidence they’re acquiring, but gentle, regular encouragement only helps to cement it.
Navigating childhood is hard. Being a parent is also hard. But, if we practice kindness and support, we can pass that on to our children, and help them to grow into confident and emotionally mature young adults. The reality is that we never stop growing so if we acknowledge that we’re growing too, that’s half the battle in supporting our children through their growth. There are always setbacks and hurdles, but in the right environment, anything can be overcome.
In a world where you can be anything- be kind.